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Trolls & Catfish: The Evolution of Deception

An online identity is an ambiguous, complex, and potentially deceiving extension of one’s self while interacting with the World Wide Web. The cyberworld enables us to create virtual identities of ourselves shape a different view from our normal selves in reality. It permits humans to go beyond one’s own body, and become a totally different person. Now, people are able to communicate with different types of people from all over the globe as long as there is a textbox and an enter button. This, however, can sometimes be a bad thing; because one’s true identity cannot truly be known while behind a computer screen. This anonymity allows users to feel fearless about being judged, which lead to the formation of different online communities with people who have a common “weird taste. Anonymity has also helped to negatively harm different people and communities with its creation of various subcultures such as, trolling, and to a certain extent catfishing.

Catfish:

The Internet has expanded our options to obtain various goods, which includes romance. As with almost all human creations however, finding romance online is not a guarantee as there remains the possibility of being victimized from a form of online deception known as “Catfish” Catfishing occurs when a person creates a fake profile in a social network or dating site in order to communicate with/seduce the person who he or she wants. According to this website, possible motivations include but are not limited to: revenge, boredom, curiosity, and/or loneliness. The term Catfish comes from a practice from Norwegian fisherman who added a single catfish to keep their stock of sardines and cod active and fresh during transportation. In this way, the role of catfishers is to keep their potential partner active in their own life. The person doing the seducing assumes the identity of someone else, through saving and uploading various photos of another person. Through lies, and a couple of copy and pastes, this person becomes someone different from their actual self in order to make themselves appear more attractive to the person they are seducing. The actual person behind the computer screen becomes anonymous and behaves in whichever way he or she wants to while sprouting lies to their online partners. Anonymity gives people power. Without it one would have to live with his or her own flaws and body while seeking out love. What this person ends up doing however is deceiving the very person that they would like to engage with romantically. People not only Catfish to get close to the person they would like to get involved with, but also to mask their own insecurities, to get over the fear that one’s usual self isn’t good enough to attract who one truly wants.

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Catfishing has become somewhat of a phenomenon in our world. The term went mainstream due to the creation of a documentary, and later a show which was a spin-off of the original documentary. The show chronicles people who want to know whether or not the people they have been communicating with and devoting his or her time to is real or not.No one who has an online relationship with an unknown person is really safe from getting catfished, not even professional athletes (well at the time a college athlete). Often times, people begin to fall in love with the idea of the fraudulent person, who appears to be their ideal partner, and choose to ignore the facts.

Trolls:

Trolling is another phenomenon that has developed with the subsequent anonymity that comes as a result of being on the Internet. The purpose of the troll is to use shock value in order to disrupt an online community. As Michael Welsh states, “anonymity shields participants from any long-lasting shame.”  Internet trolls can create any identity with little to no consequence.  With an anonymous username, trolls can say whatever provocative thing they would like to say. As Judith S. Donith concludes the troll wants someone to respond to them, as they are “designed to incite.” Trolls can go about doing their job by doing various things, whether it is by asking an extremely unintelligent question, making an extremely strong and inappropriate view, or by responding in an inappropriate way to something.

Trolls can be a type of cyberbully, people who use the internet to hurt other people’s feelings, through expressing reckless opinions and then bullying anyone who they feel like bothering. A troll’s main goal is to irritate people they do not know who are possibly thousands of miles away from their own location. Throughout the Internet, one can find various rules that describe and help on how to deal with trolls. One of the most famous rules is “don’t feed the troll.”

 

This is a golden rule when dealing with trolls because trolls feast on the reaction of others. These rules exist because of the seemingly immense power that trolls have to totally ruin the flow that an online community possesses. Inside of the screen, there is no one to keep you accountable for the words you say. Outside in the real physical world, it is really unlikely that a troll would act the way he or she does while online. In person, this person actually sees what they are doing to their victim, have an opportunity to seriously learn from his or her mistakes, and face real repercussions for their actions.

Response to Trolling:

Some websites are actually attempting to implement anti-troll measures in order to protect their comment section. What these websites are doing is assigning an identity to the person making comments. Websites are making their comment section Facebook oriented. Facebook is a website that asks for a lot of information including one’s name, his or her family, their occupation, etc. In turn, this makes anonymity harder to obtain, and instead of a trolling comment section, websites have better quality. YouTube, for example, has converted it’s commenting system to one where the user must use their Google + account. It is commenting structure that also relies upon a thumbs-up, thumbs-down arrangement. Good comments get filtered up into the system and goes up higher in the comments, where it can be more widely seen, whereas the bad comments made by trolls get filtered out to the bottom of the ladder. In this system, highlighting and rewarding intelligent comments becomes the priority, while the trolls who wanted to disrupt the community are left yelling at the bottom of the comment section alone.

Early findings conclude that the Facebook oritented commenting system on websites like ESPN and the Huffington Post decrease the number of comments, but instead increase the quality of the comments. There are a fewer of attacks against one another in the comment section, and there is more of a relevant, productive discourse between users. A lot of this has to do with the decrease of anonymity. With the rise of identity in the user comes a corresponding decrease in power that the user has to act in a foolish manner. In the article, Daegon Choo states, “When there exists more social cues, commenters are less likely to be trolls and flamers.” Therefore, because one’s Facebook, and in turn, a key to one’s life is exposed by having their name and link to their profile one click away, people are less inclined to say something insensitive or unintelligent about the topic they are commenting on. One’s identity becomes revealed, and as a result, the probability of becoming a victim of public shaming also rises. Websites are heading in the right direction, as there needs to be a sense of respect that should be prevalent while on the Internet.

 

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